2538.) Acts 19:23-41

January 23, 2019

This single column and parts of the foundation are all that now remain of the Temple of Artemis (Diana) in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Archaeologists have been digging in Ephesus on and off since 1863.

Acts 19:23-41 (NLT)

The Riot in Ephesus

This is a reproduction of the Temple of Artemis (Diana) from Ephesus (present day Turkey). The original was beyond beautiful, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, measuring 425 ft long, 220 ft wide, and 60 ft high. It was supported by 127 pillars, each 60 feet high, and was decorated with great sculptures. It was lost to history until it was discovered in 1869, and its main altar was unearthed in 1965. 

It was described by Antipater of Sidon, who compiled the list of the Seven Wonders:

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.”

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Acts19 Artemis

When the goddess Artemis was represented in stone and metals, she bore upon her head a mural headdress, representing a fortified city wall; from it, drapery hung upon each side of her face to her shoulders. The upper part of her body was completely covered with rows of breasts to signify that she was the mother of all life. The lower arms were extended.  In later times her Greek followers represented her with stags or lions standing at her sides. The most renowned of her statues stood on the platform before the entrance to her temple in Ephesus, shown above. As the statues indicate, she impersonated the reproductive powers of men and of animals and of all other life.

–E. J. Banks

23 About that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way. 24 It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many craftsmen busy. 25 He called them together, along with others employed in similar trades, and addressed them as follows:

“Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. 26 But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! 27 Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!”

28 At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. 30 Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. 31 Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater.

The mob gathered here, at the Great Theater of Ephesus, which, when completed, seated some 24,000 people.  If you ever sit there, you will hear its excellent acoustics!  It was severely damaged by an earthquake in A.D. 262.

32 Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander forward and told him to explain the situation. He motioned for silence and tried to speak. 34 But when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again and kept it up for two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

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Music:

Imagine the racket! The chanting could no doubt be heard all over the city.  HERE  is a song to answer them:  Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God.” Truly!

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35 At last the mayor was able to quiet them down enough to speak. “Citizens of Ephesus,” he said. “Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven. 36 Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess.

38 “If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges. 39 And if there are complaints about other matters, they can be settled in a legal assembly. 40 I am afraid we are in danger of being charged with rioting by the Roman government, since there is no cause for all this commotion. And if Rome demands an explanation, we won’t know what to say.” 41 Then he dismissed them, and they dispersed.

“This chapter teaches us all a permanent lesson: that when disciples have a true revival, society gets a revolution. When the Spirit moves mightily upon children of God we may look for other might mighty movements among unbelievers, and need not be surprised if the devil himself comes down, having great wrath, as though he knew that his time were short.”

–Arthur Tappan Pierson

It has often happened in the history of Christianity that when God moves among His people and they become very serious about their Christianity, that it affects the livelihood of those who trade in vice or immorality. For example, in the early years of the Salvation Army, they were so effective that pimps and bar owners in southern England organized a “Skeleton Army” to oppose them with threats and violence – and even a few Salvation Army workers were murdered.

–David Guzik

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Temple of Artemis (ruins).   http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Ephesus_Temple_of_Artemis_ruins2_tb_n010500.jpg
Artemis.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/2de70-diana2.jpeg
Temple of Artemis (reproduction).    https://www.ancient.eu/image/180/model-of-the-temple-of-artemis/
Great Theater of Ephesus.    http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Ephesus_theater_from_west,_tbn010501.jpg
taking God seriously.   https://quotesthoughtsrandom.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/taking-god-seriously.jpg
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2537.) Acts 19:1-22

January 22, 2019

map of Paul’s Third Missionary journey

Acts 19:1-22 (NLT)

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. 2 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.

“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.

And they replied, “The baptism of John.”

These Ephesian disciples had only a basic understanding of the Messiah Jesus and His ministry, only what could be gained through the message of John the Baptist. They were in the same place as Apollos before Aquila and Priscilla explained the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-26). They could have received John’s baptism from the hands of John himself; or perhaps from some of John’s disciples who continued on in his ministry after John’s death.

–David Guzik

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”

5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

Let me look at my own life. Is there a conspicuous presence of the Holy Spirit? Is there an obvious power of the Lord Jesus at work in me? Do I shine as a witness for Christ? Oh, God, let this be a genuine cry of my heart!

Paul Ministers in Ephesus

Few places have made such an impression on me as the ruins of Ephesus. Such a life-like-ness! It is as though all the Ephesians just stepped out. I nearly expected to run into Paul around the next corner.

8 Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. 9 But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord.

It seems likely that Tyrannus lectured there in the cooler morning hours, leaving the hall to Paul afterward. Paul may have worked his trade in the morning to support himself, and then taught in the afternoon. One can readily see that two years’ worth of Paul’s teaching and discussion would have a pervasive effect.

11 God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. 12 When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.

13 A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.

Because the seven sons of Sceva had no real relationship with Jesus, they had no spiritual power against the evil spirit. They left the encounter naked and wounded. It was dangerous for them to take the reality of spiritual warfare lightly.

–David Guzik

This fragment of an ancient Greek papyrus contains remedies for an earache.

from Lord, Who Are You?  The Story of Paul and the Early Church,
by Mark Link, S.J.

Roving exorcists were common in Paul’s day, especially in places like Ephesus, where magic and superstitions were widespread. In his Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare refers to Ephesus as the city of “dark-working sorcerers,” “soul-killing witches,” and “prating mountebanks.”

Ancients used the term “Ephesus Writings” to refer to magical papyri or to magical formulas to be placed in lockets and worn around the neck. Archaeologists have found papyri scrolls that contain a number of exorcist rites.

17 The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. 18 Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. 19 A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire.

Apparently, before the sons of Sceva incident, many believers did not know they were involved in the demonic. They saw their actions in a far more innocent light, until they knew the reality of demonic activity. The sons of Sceva incident also prompted Christians to renounce any remaining connection to the demonic. They renounced the demonic by confessing and by burning their magic books, disregarding whatever value such items may have had.

The value of the books was several million dollars. 20 So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.

A wonderful result!

“The Sermon of St. Paul at Ephesus”  by Eustache Le Sueur, 1649 (The Louvre, Paris)

21 Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem. “And after that,” he said, “I must go on to Rome!” 22 He sent his two assistants, Timothy and Erastus, ahead to Macedonia while he stayed awhile longer in the province of Asia.

It is only by the merest hint that Luke gives us an indication here of something which is filled out in Paul’s letters. He tells us that Paul purposed to go to Jerusalem. The church in Jerusalem was poor; and Paul aimed to take a collection from all his Gentile churches as a contribution to it. We find references to this collection in 1 Corinthians 16:1 ff; 2 Corinthians 9:1 ff; Romans 15:25-26. Paul pressed on with this scheme for two reasons. First, he wished in the most practical way to emphasize the unity of the Church. He wished to demonstrate that they belonged to the body of Christ and that when one part of the body suffered all must help. In other words, he wished to take them away from a merely congregational outlook and to give them a vision of the one universal Church of which they were part. Second, he wished to teach them practical Christian charity. Doubtless when they heard of the privations of Jerusalem they felt sorry. He wished to teach them that sympathy must be translated into action. These two lessons are as valid today as ever they were.

–William Barclay

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Music:

HERE  is a familiar old hymn, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations,” but to a lovely new tune by Cindy Berry! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
map.   https://www.conformingtojesus.com/images/webpages/pauls_third_missionary_journey1.jpeg
Ephesus, main street.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/ephesus-ruins.jpg
papyrus.    https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/science-and-empire/prescriptions.shtml
Le Sueur.    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a3/Eustache_Le_Sueur_-_The_Preaching_of_St_Paul_at_Ephesus_-_WGA12613.jpg

2536.) Acts 18:24-28

January 21, 2019

map of Paul’s second missionary journey

Acts 18:24-28 (NLT)

Paul Returns to Antioch of Syria

Here is the end of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey. Let’s review what happened:

Paul and his companion Barnabas left for the Second Missionary Journey from Jerusalem, in late Autumn 49 AD, after the meeting of the Council of Jerusalem where the circumcision question was debated. They stopped in Antioch where they had a sharp argument about taking John Mark with them on their trips, as in the previous trip he had left them and gone home. Unable to resolve the dispute, Paul and Barnabas decided to separate; Barnabas took John Mark with him, while Silas joined Paul.

Paul and Silas initially visited Tarsus (Paul’s birthplace), Derbe and Lystra. In Lystra, they met a disciple named Timothy, who was well-spoken of by the Christians who were at Lystra and Iconium, and decided to take him with them. Meanwhile, the number of believers kept growing daily (Acts 16:5).

In Philippi, they met a woman named Lydia, a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God and welcomed them in her house, and then Paul cast a spirit of divination out of a slave girl. Her masters were upset about the loss of income her soothsaying provided (Acts 16:16-24), so they turned the city against the missionaries, and Paul and Silas were put in jail. After a miraculous earthquake, the gates of the prison fell apart and Paul and Silas could have escaped but remained; this event led to the conversion of the jailor (Acts 16:25-40). They continued traveling, going by Berea and then to Athens where Paul preached to the Jews and to the believing Greeks in the synagogue and to the Greek intellectuals and philosophers in the Areopagus/Mars’ Hill.

Around 50-52 AD, Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth. In Corinth, Paul met Priscilla and Aquila who became believers and helped Paul through his other missionary journeys. The couple followed Paul and his companions to Ephesus, and stayed there to start a Church. In 52 AD, Paul and Silas sailed to Caesarea to greet the Church there and then traveled north to Antioch where they stayed for about a year before leaving again on their third missionary journey.

–ConformingtoJesus.com

Apollos Instructed at Ephesus

24 Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. 25 He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism.

Because Apollos knew of the work of John the Baptist, it is likely that he preached that the Messiah had come and we must repent and respond to Jesus, but he probably had little knowledge of the full person and work of Jesus Christ.

–David Guzik

26 When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.

27 Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed. 28 He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate. Using the Scriptures, he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah.

When Apollos went to the region of Achaia, it probably means he went to the city of Corinth in the region of Achaia. From what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, he apparently had a remarkable ministry there. 

1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

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Music:

HERE  is a song about growing in the Lord. MercyMe and “Greater.”

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
map.   https://www.conformingtojesus.com/images/webpages/apostle_paul_second_missionary_journey_map1.jpg
watering little plants.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/seed-water.jpg

2452.) Acts 18:1-23

September 25, 2018

This NASA map clearly shows Corinth’s land bridge and double harbors.

Acts 18 (New Living Translation)

Paul Meets Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth

1 Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

Corinth! A city known for travel and trade, for indulgences of every kind, for widespread immorality. It possessed two large harbors, so many commercial goods were unloaded here and shipped out to places throughout the Roman Empire. The Temple of Venus was located here, with a thousand temple prostitutes available there for the “worshipers.” A “Corinthian girl” was code for a prostitute. Et cetera. An ancient “Sin City.”

2 There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome (some scholars place the deportation at about AD 49). 3 Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was.

Here we have a vivid light on the kind of life that Paul lived. He was a rabbi and according to Jewish practice every rabbi must have a trade. He must take no money for preaching and teaching and must make his own living. The Jew glorified work. “Love work,” they said. “He who does not teach his son a trade teaches him robbery.” Following a respectable trade meant that rabbis never became detached scholars and always knew what the life of the working-man was like.

–William Barclay

Even today, if a missionary has an outside job to support himself or herself on the mission field, it is called tentmaking.

4 Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. 5 And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia,

They came bringing good news to Paul from Thessalonica:

1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 (NLT)

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith.  It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence.  Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.”

Paul rejects their rejection! How much better it would be for us if we followed Paul’s example in such cases, to turn our faces and go forward to the next thing God directs, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or angry at those who rejected us. My mother would call such behavior of bearing no grudges “keeping short accounts.” 

7 Then he left and went to the home of Titius Justus, a Gentile who worshiped God and lived next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and everyone in his household believed in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.

Like Paul, we can find our courage to go forward in the strengthening presence of the Lord.

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Music:

How often we, like Paul, need an encouraging word from the Lord!  Consider the words of this song addressed directly to YOU today!  HERE  is Don Moen’s “Be Strong and Take Courage.”

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12 But when Gallio became governor of Achaia, some Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him before the governor for judgment. 13 They accused Paul of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.”

14 But just as Paul started to make his defense, Gallio turned to Paul’s accusers and said, “Listen, you Jews, if this were a case involving some wrongdoing or a serious crime, I would have a reason to accept your case. 15 But since it is merely a question of words and names and your Jewish law, take care of it yourselves. I refuse to judge such matters.” 16 And he threw them out of the courtroom.

17 The crowd then grabbed Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him right there in the courtroom. But Gallio paid no attention.

By refusing to get involved in strictly religious matters, Gallio does right — and effectively gives legal protection to Christianity. This also speaks to the kind of life Paul had led, in that Gallio knew there was no wrong-doing to be found.

Paul Returns to Antioch of Syria

18 Paul stayed in Corinth for some time after that, then said good-bye to the brothers and sisters and went to nearby Cenchrea. There he shaved his head according to Jewish custom, marking the end of a vow.

The vow was probably the vow of a Nazirite (Numbers 6). Usually, the vow of a Nazirite was taken for a certain period of time, and when completed, the hair (which had been allowed to freely grow) was cut off and offered to the Lord at a special ceremony at the temple in Jerusalem.

Then he set sail for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him.

19 They stopped first at the port of Ephesus, where Paul left the others behind. While he was there, he went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews. 20 They asked him to stay longer, but he declined. 21 As he left, however, he said, “I will come back later, God willing.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 The next stop was at the port of Caesarea. From there he went up and visited the church at Jerusalem and then went back to Antioch.

23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul went back through Galatia and Phrygia, visiting and strengthening all the believers.

And thus ends Paul’s second missionary journey.

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
NASA map of Corinth.    http://www.ebibleteacher.com/imagehtml/images/800×600/Corinth%20Athens%20800.JPG
tentmakers.    http://nornirn.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/priscilla_aquila.gif
not my problem.   https://www.goodvibeuniversity.com/public/Its_Not_My_Problem.cfm

2451.) Acts 17:16-33

September 24, 2018

The Parthenon, on the Acropolis, was already over 400 years old when Paul arrived in Athens. This view is from the Areopagus hill.

Acts 17:16-33 (NLT)

13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. 14 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.

Paul Preaches in Athens

The Areopagus sermon refers to a sermon delivered by Apostle Paul in Athens, at the Areopagus, and recounted in Acts 17:16-34. The Areopagus sermon is the most dramatic and fullest reported speech of the missionary career of Saint Paul.

–Wikipedia

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city.

I have read that ancient writers say there were some 30,000 gods in Athens!

17 He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there.

At the time of Paul’s visit to Athens, that city was no longer important as a political seat; Corinth was the commercial and political center of Greece under the Roman Caesars. But Athens was still the university center of the world. It was the heir of the great philosophers, the city of Pericles and Demosthenes, of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, and Euripides — these men who established patterns of thought that have affected human learning for centuries. Almost all philosophies follow, in some degree, the teachings of these men. But Athens was long past its zenith when Paul visited it. It was now four hundred years after the golden age of Greece, and, though Athens was still a center of art, beauty, culture, and knowledge, the city had lost all political importance.

–Ray Stedman

18 He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”

To over-simplify:  Epicureans, believing in chance and indifferent to the gods, lived for pleasure (“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”), which was best produced by virtue which brought pleasure. Stoics, on the other hand, were pantheists who fostered an indifference to pain and pleasure (“Grin and bear it”), since each came from the gods. Both philosophies were popular in the Roman era. Today we might call them existentialists and fatalists.

19 Then they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. 20 “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” 21 (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)

Wanting to hear and talk about the newest thing. Oh, how modern is that!

22 So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows:

“St. Paul Preaching in Athens,” by Raphael, 1515 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.

24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

Paul starts not with an overview of Hebrew history, as he often did in Jewish synagogues. Instead, he begins with God as Creator, distinct from His creation, and mindful of the people He had created. This is a very different philosophy from the Epicureans, who believed the gods had little to do with people, and from the Stoics, who saw gods in everything.

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.

This altar is located on Palatine Hill, Rome, where once stood the palaces of the Caesars. It dates from about 100 B.C. and has the inscription, ´To the unknown God.´

First Paul uses “the unknown god” as a bridge to his audience. Then he takes a similarly sympathetic approach by quoting from Aratus, a Stoic poet:

Zeus fills the streets, the marts,
Zeus fills the seas, the shores, the rivers!
Everywhere our need is Zeus!
We also are his offspring!

30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

The sermon ends with God as the main actor:  God overlooks, commands, sets the day, judges the world, and provides proof through the resurrection.

–Mikeal C. Parsons 

32 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.”

Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul. But they believed the body was material and inherently evil; the idea of a glorified, resurrected body made no sense to them.

33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Prayer

Our Father, we pray for our own age, our own generation, our own world. We know how men have pursued the emptiness of pagan philosophies in our day and how men are trying to satisfy the emptiness within with some lesser concept than you. They can never do so and are therefore rendered restless and unhappy, never finding what they are looking for. Others are resistant to this message, Lord, preening themselves in their intellectual pride, trying to find their own way by the power of reason. Father, we pray that everywhere this great message may have its effect as it did on Athens, and that our age, our darkened society will be set free from its bondage to materialism and made to be what you intended us to be:  warm, whole, balanced, happy, excited, and alive as Jesus Christ intends men and women to be today. We ask it in his name, Amen.

–Ray Stedman

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Music:

HERE  is an old Greek hymn! Evidence suggests that the Greek text of “Let All Mortal Flesh” may date back to the fourth century.

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Acropolis.    https://www.wefindyougo.com/best-tourist-places-in-greece/
Raphael.    http://www.abcgallery.com/R/raphael/raphael52.html
altar to an unknown god.     http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_hKPbvbwYcqE/SBOXaZB-2uI/AAAAAAAABTQ/ki

2443.) Acts 17:1-15

September 12, 2018

Thessaloniki, with its beautiful White Tower, is the second-largest city in Greece.

Acts 17 (NLT)

Paul Preaches in Thessalonica

The Via Egnatia was a road built by the Romans in the second century BCE. It went west from the Bosphorus across Greece (Macedonia, Thrace) to the Adriatic, some 700 miles. Like other major Roman roads, it was nearly 20 feet wide, surfaced with large slabs of carefully fitted stones. It linked Neapolis, Philippi, and Thessalonica.  Paul would have walked this very road.

1 Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.

The first verse of this chapter is an extraordinary example of economy of writing. It sounds like a pleasant stroll; but in point of fact Philippi was 33 Roman miles from Amphipolis; Amphipolis was 30 miles from Apollonia; and Apollonia was 37 miles from Thessalonica. A journey of over 100 miles is dismissed in a sentence.

–William Barclay

2 As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. 3 He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” 4 Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women.

Part of the credit here goes to the believers Paul had left behind in Philipi:

Philippians 4:15-16 (NLT)

As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.  Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once.

5 But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Paul encountered the same envious reaction to his successful ministry during his first missionary journey in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13: 45 and 50), in Iconium (Acts 14:2 and 5), and in Lystra (Acts 14:19).

They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. 6 Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted,

The King James Version puts verse 6 as “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”

The Jews had not the slightest doubt that Christianity was a supremely effective thing. T. R. Glover quoted with delight the saying of the child who remarked that the New Testament ended with Revolutions. When Christianity really goes into action it must cause a revolution both in the life of the individual and in the life of society.

–William Barclay

“and now they are here disturbing our city, too. 7 And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”

Any talk of a rival to the Emperor was strictly forbidden by Rome.

8 The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports. 9 So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them.

Paul and Silas in Berea

Mosaic of “Paul Preaching to the Noble Bereans” from the Altar of St. Paul in Veria (Berea), Greece.

10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea.

The believers sent Paul to a safe place. Cicero calls Berea an “out-of-the-way town.” Here Paul and his friends can stay until things settle down in Thessalonica.

When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.

13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. 14 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.

Note three things:

The diligence of the Bereans, reading the Scriptures with new eyes.

The venom of the Jews from Thessolonica, who are identifying their aims with God, rather than submitting their ideas to God.

And the courage of Paul, who continues living a clearly dangerous life as he tells the story of Jesus.

What can we learn from these few verses?

_________________________

Music:

I want to be a Berean! — searching the Scriptures to know what the Lord says is true and right!  HERE  is Henry Purcell’s “Thy Word Is a Lantern,”  sung by the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge.

Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have sworn, and am steadfastly purposed to keep thy righteous judgements.
I am troubled above measure: Quicken me, O Lord, according to thy word.
Let the freewill offerings of my mouth please thee O Lord, and teach me thy judgements.
The ungodly have laid a snare for me, but yet I swerved not from thy commandments.
Thy testimonies have I claimd as mine heritage for ever:
And why? They are the very joy of my heart. Alleluia.

Psalm 119: 105-108 and 110-111

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Thessaloniki.     http://apapagianopoulos.blogspot.com/2014/07/blog-post_48.html
Via Egnatia.     https://www.romanoimpero.com/2014/09/salonicco-tessalonica-grecia.html
Thank you note.    http://goodshepherd.com/Portals/4/_Files/Home/Resources/Horn/201807Horn.pdf?ver=2018-06-29-184515-427
Paul preaching in Berea.    http://www.padfield.com/greece/berea/images/berea-greece-03.jpg

2437.) Acts 16

September 4, 2018

If you click on this map, it will come up more clearly for you to read more easily.

Acts 16 (New Living Translation)

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Click  HERE  for a two-and-a-half minute preview of Paul’s second missionary journey!

1 Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek.

Remember Lystra? First, the people there thought Paul was a god and tried to offer sacrifices to him. Then they tried to stone him to death. Had Timothy and his mother seen Paul’s strong witness for Christ in those very events? Timothy will become one of Paul’s close co-workers and the recipient of two of Paul’s letters.

2 Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, 3 so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey.

Barnabas and John Mark had just left Paul — and God provided another companion for him in Timothy. When God calls people to his work, he also provides for their needs in that work. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek.

Paul has Timothy circumcised not for his salvation, but for the sake of ministering unhindered among the Jews.

4 Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.

A Call from Macedonia

6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.

Asia in New Testament times does not mean China and Japan! It means the Roman province of Asia Minor, which is present-day Turkey.

7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

Paul is being guided by hindrance. The Holy Spirit often guides as much by the closing of doors as He does by the opening of doors.
–David Guzik

9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

Notice the shift in pronouns, from they in verse 8 to we in verse 10? Perhaps here is where Luke joined Paul on the trip.

Modern mosaic, “Vision Telling Paul to Come over to Macedonia,” in Veroia (ancient Berea), Greece

Lydia of Philippi Believes in Jesus

11 We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace,

“The ferocious sea god, Poseidon, is portrayed in Homer’s Iliad as sitting on a mountain crag of Samothrace watching two armies clash on the mainland, watching Troy fall.

“Samothrace is a small, mountainous island. One of its peaks soars well over 5,000 feet into the air. Paul caught a good wind to make the island in a day.”

–Mark Link, S.J.

and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

Paul had had in mind more cities for Christ, but God wanted a whole continent! So Paul brought the gospel to Europe. It started in Greece and went on to Rome. Eventually the Good News made it all the way to Norway, where my ancestors learned they could leave their sins at the foot of the cross and walk through life with Jesus. I am so grateful to Paul for paving the way for the gospel to come to my family!

13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there.

This is a small Jewish community, for had there been ten men, they would have had a synagogue.

14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God.

Purple cloth was a luxurious, high-end product, and Thyatira was a center for the dye and the cloth. Later a church was established at Thyatira, for one of the letters in Revelation is addressed here (Rev. 2:18-29).

As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

Such openness of heart towards the Lord led her to open her home to Paul and his group. Lydia understood the value of hospitality!

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.

Paul, like Jesus, does not need or want demons testifying on his behalf. Jesus, also, told demons who were proclaiming His name to be silent (as in Matthew 8:28-34).

19 Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. 20 “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials.

Paul and Silas were Jews, of course. Luke was Greek, and Timothy only half-Jewish. It was easy enough to blame “these Jews!”

21 “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.”

22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,

Given the same situation, would I respond so faithfully?

and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

“A Prisoner’s Dream”

Paul prayed with Silas

The earth shook; jail doors opened!

The Lord set them free!

–John Michael Domino

27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

In not escaping, they showed tremendous discernment. The circumstances said, “escape.” But love said, “Stay for the sake of this one soul.” They were not guided merely by circumstances, but by what love compelled.
–David Guzik

29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”

32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

35 The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, “Let those men go!” 36 So the jailer told Paul, “The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul replied, “They have publicly beaten us without a trial and put us in prison—and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!”

Roman citizens had specific and zealously guarded civil rights. They were entitled to a trial, and were not to be flogged. Paul did not get a trial, and he was beaten. He knows this information of his Roman citizenship is game-changing.

38 When the police reported this, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city. 40 When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

John 13:7 — Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

Matthew 5:11 — Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake.

In Acts 16 we read how Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go to preach the word in Asia (verse 6) and in Bithynia (verse 7), but had a vision of a man saying, Come over to Macedonia, and help us. And immediately they set out, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them (verse 9-10).

The result was bad trouble; they were beaten, cast into prison, and put in the stocks. It must have been very perplexing for them.

To the questions that come about things we know the Lord does (verses 6 and 7), the answer of peace is found in John 13:7. To the opposite kind of question, about things the devil does (verse 20 onwards), we have Matthew 5:11.

This distinction holds good every time. In this one chapter of Acts we have opportunities for both kinds of questions, exactly as in one short period of life we may find ourselves faced with both.

But there is always peace in these two answers. They explain nothing, but they still the heart and lead it into quietness.

That is why at midnight Paul and Silas were able to sing praises to God; and we know what happened after that.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Charles Wesley’s beloved hymn, “And Can It Be (Amazing Love),” sung by the Altar of Praise Chorale.

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
map of Paul’s second missionary journey.    http://gbccct.org/pauls-second-journey/
map of Asia Minor.     http://frmarkdwhite.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/asia-minor.jpg
mosaic of Paul’s vision.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_BmgZBuucUjs/SBKhtvjcSXI/AAAAAAAAAZk/3nKRZpNxJXw/s1600-h/modern+mosaic+Vision+Telling+Paul+to+Come+Over+to+Macedonia+Veroia+%28Ancient+Berea%29,+Greece.jpg
Samothrace.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samothrace#/media/File:Samothraki_island.jpg
map of Europe.  https://www.wpmap.org/europe-map-hd-with-countries/
pineapple, a sign of Southern hospitality.    https://www.emblibrary.com/EL/Products.aspx?Catalog=Emblibrary&ProductID=h1392
Paul and Silas singing in jail.   https://www.jesus-our-blessed-hope.com/blog/scripture-for-today-paul-silas
Believe.   https://www.amazon.com/Acts-16-Believe-Jesus-Sticker/dp/B07BDN199S
Philippians 4:7.    http://4catholiceducators.com/graphics/Philippians4_7.jpg